Uncover the Library’s Rare Books and Special Collections Treasures in our series of lunchtime talks

Rare Bites is a series of 30 minute lunchtime talks held monthly during semester. Each talk features an expert speaker spotlighting specific Rare Books and Special Collections resources that are part of their field of study.

The series gives the opportunity for staff & students to learn about some of the treasures and lesser-known gems within Rare Books & Special Collections.

Talk One:
More than just its prayers: A late medieval Dutch Prayer Book in Fisher Library

Our first talk More than just its prayers: A late medieval Dutch Prayer Book in Fisher Library is by Dan Anlezark- McCaughey Professor of Early English Literature and Language; Director, Medieval and Early Modern Centre; Associate Dean Research (Education) Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Department of English who will be talking about the book from our collection: Add. Ms. 342

[A prayer book in Latin and Dutch]. 1501. Netherlands.

Add. Ms. 342 is an unstudied late medieval prayer book in Middle Dutch and Latin. This late fifteenth-century manuscript, written on paper, is only minimally decorated, and is the kind of book that was the output of mass production in the Low Countries in the later Middle Ages. The book appears to have remained in private ownership from the time it was made until relatively recently, as is indicated by the inscription of a number of names (including those of children) up to the early nineteenth century.

This short talk will provide a brief overview of the book in its evolving historical contexts, from the time of its manufacture, until it was acquired by the Fisher Library.

Cost: Free

When: 1:00pm – 1:30pm, Wednesday 20 March 2019

Where: Fisher Seminar Room (218), level 2

Register online (places limited)

Talk Two: Illustrations to micrographs: Visualising patterns in Botany

Learning about the world around us involves observing and recognising the patterns. In science, learning is about sharing and challenging “the what” and “the how” of our observations through discussion within the classroom and with the scientific community at large.

Botanische Wandtafeln (1874-1911), RB Elephant Folio 580 2
Online at https://digital.library.sydney.edu.au/nodes/view/6401

Join Associate Professor Rosanne Quinnell from Life and Environmental Sciences, Faculty of Science discussing Botanische Wandatafeln – a series of technical scientific illustrations (1874-1911) distributed globally as teaching tools to support student learning in botany.

Reliance on these illustrations of resources fell out favour for a number of reasons including the advent of digital imaging which coincided with the explosion in the number of online resources (including the University’s eBOT collection). Re-utilising Leopold Kny’s series in a digital platform allows for an enriched dialogue about how science, in general, and botany, is communicated.

Associate Professor Rosanne Quinnell is from Life and Environmental Sciences, Faculty of Science. Dr Quinnell’s research and teaching focus on plant sciences and the use of technology-enhanced solutions to improve student learning e.g. Botany, Zoology and Human Biology virtual microscopy slide collections, eBOT botanical image repository, electron laboratory notebooks, CampusFlora apps.

Cost: Free

When: 1:00pm – 1:30pm, Wednesday 17th April

Where: Fisher Seminar Room (218), level 2

Register online (places limited)

Stay tuned for details of more upcoming Rare Bites talks throughout the year.

The Golden Age of Dutch Printing

In the seventeenth century, a period known as the Dutch golden age, Dutch book production led the world.

Atlas minor…noveau revue, et augmente / Gerardus Mercator (1512-94). Amsterdami, excusam in aedilus Judoci Hondii [1613]. RB 6113.1

Dutch dominance of European printing at this time can be attributed to two main factors: the Dutch Republic’s position as a centre of international trade, and its relative freedom of the press. This exhibition showcases some examples of fine Dutch printing held in Rare Books & Special Collections.

When: 18th March – 23rd September 2019

Where: Fisher Library, Level 1

Rare Renaissance Drawing Discovered in Library’s Rare Books & Special Collections



Giorgione’s sketch of the Madonna and Child and the inscription.
Credit: Sarah Lorien.

For the first time in centuries, in a copy of Dante Alighieri’s Commedia (Venice, 1497) owned by the University of Sydney Library’s Rare Books and Special Collections, Academic Liaison Librarian Kim Wilson discovered an inscription and sketch by Renaissance Artist Giorgione dating back to over 500 years ago in the back pages of the book.

The inscription confirms Giorgione’s birth year and exact date of death which has previously been unknown, and the sketch is thought to represent a first thought for Giorgione’s paintings Benson Holy Family and Virgin and Child.

An Italian Renaissance painter, Giorgione’s life was shrouded in mystery for centuries, with the exact date of his birth and death remaining unknown until now.

In the back pages of the 1497 copy of Dante’s Divine Comedy, is the red chalk drawing of Madonna and Child, a technique developed by Leonardo da Vinci fifty years earlier. The drawing is one of only two ever to be attributed to Giorgione.

An article in The Burlington Magazine March 2019, No. 1392 – Vol 161, written by Kim Wilson and  Professor Jaynie Anderson (Melbourne University), Professor Nerida Newbigin (University of Sydney) and Julie Sommerfeldt (manager of Rare Books and Special Collections) argues that Giorgione is the artist behind the drawing and potentially the owner of the rare copy of Dante’s famous text.

Little is known of the 36-year-old’s life, though historians have speculated the painter was illiterate.


Kim Wilson, Academic Liaison Librarian and Julie Sommerfeldt, Manager Rare Books and Special Collections. Credit: Sarah Lorien.

“It was a serendipitous finding that will allow art historians to rewrite Giorgione’s place in history, as one of Bellini’s apprentices” said Ms Wilson.

After discovering the drawing, Ms Wilson sought the expertise of Emeritus Professor Nerida Newbigin from the University’s Department of Italian Studies, to translate the inscription written in Venetian at the top of the page on which the drawing appears. [PIC]

Professor Newbigin confirmed the inscription read:

“On the day of 17 September, Giorgione of Castelfranco, a very excellent artist died of the plague in Venice at the age of 36 and he rests in peace.”

Professor Jaynie Anderson from the University of Melbourne, said, “Not only does this give the precise date of Giorgione’s death, but also indicates a birth date, providing bookends to his life. This is particularly significant given he was said to have had an ‘impossible biography’ for centuries.”

While the exact date the University of Sydney Library obtained the book is unknown, records indicate the book was a donation to the library sometime between 1914 and 1959.

The drawing may represent a first thought for The Holy Family, which resides in the National Gallery of Art in Washington or Adoration of Kings, which is in The National Gallery in London.

Giorgione (Venetian, 1477/1478 – 1510), The Holy Family, probably c. 1500, oil on panel transferred to hardboard

A copy of the book can be viewed online through the Library’s Digital Collection platform here.

Things don’t always make sense. Pre-booking does.

To improve customer service, from January 2019 we ask that all clients make a booking before visiting the Rare Books and Special Collections Reading Room. This ensures we have your items ready when you arrive, with no delay.

  • For University of Sydney cardholders, bookings to view material in the RBSC Reading Room can be made via the new Library Search portal
  • For now, all other clients will still use the current online booking form here

For more information, visit the RBSC page here

True to Type

If you have ever created a digital document, chances are you’ve come across the terms Italic, Roman, and Sans Serif.

This exhibition tells the story of these three enduring letter-form classifications, through early examples drawn from Rare Books & Special
Collections.

When: 25 October 2018 – 31st January 2019

Where: Fisher Library, Level 3  Corridor & SciTech Library, glass cabinets

Guided Exhibition Walk: Phyllis Kaberry and the Sepik

Phyllis Kaberry

The Phyllis Kaberry exhibition is on but we would like you to join us for a guided exhibition walk.

When: 4 July; 1 –1:45pm

Where: Fisher Library, level 3 and SciTech Library

Speakers: Dr Jude Philp, Senior Curator at University Museum and Nyree Morrison, Senior Archivist at University Archives

This guided walk will be conducted through the exhibition currently on display in the Fisher Library Level 3 and the SciTech Library. The exhibition was curated by anthropologist Diane Losche from the collections of Sydney’s Anthropology Department held by Rare Books and Special Collections, University Archives and the Macleay Museum. It focuses on Sydney anthropologist Phyllis Kaberry to commemorate the inscription of the Anthropological Field Research and Teaching Records, University of Sydney, 1926-1956 into the UNESCO Memory of the World Australian

Register here

More about Phyllis Kaberry and the Sepik:

In 1923 at a meeting of the international Pan-Pacific Congress at the University of Sydney the Australian government was urged to establish a Department of Anthropology and to fund urgent anthropological research in the region to counter the devastating effects of colonisation. The University of Sydney took up the challenge, instituting the first Department of Anthropology in the Australian-Pacific region with the appointment of AR Radcliffe Brown in 1926.

Many of the first generation of men and women who were taught at Sydney worked in isolation for periods of a year to eighteen months in areas where English was not spoken, in places not inscribed on maps, and with limited contact with people outside the community they were studying. For their work they were obliged to learn map making, linguistics and medical skills alongside their anthropological training.

The University’s Archives and Macleay Museum today look after the enormous wealth of information that these anthropologists produced from their interactions with Australian Aboriginal and Pacific peoples. For this exhibition we have focussed on the work of Phyllis Kaberry, the first female professional anthropologist to emerge from the Department.

This is a joint exhibition between Rare Books and Special Collections at the University of Sydney Library, University Archives and Museums to commemorate the inscription of the Anthropological Field Research and Teaching Records, University of Sydney, 1926-1956 into the UNESCO Memory of the World Australian Register.

The exhibition is being showcased on level 3 of Fisher and Sci Tech Libraries until August 2018.